Chiefs

Anthony Sherman, Frank Zombo see special teams as an edge for Chiefs

Outside linebacker Frank Zombo, left, is one of the Chiefs’ best special-teams performers.
Outside linebacker Frank Zombo, left, is one of the Chiefs’ best special-teams performers. deulitt@kcstar.com

At Connecticut, Anthony Sherman was asked about his interest in playing special teams. His response helps explain why he’s considered among the NFL’s best in that area.

“I looked at it as another way to get on the field,” Sherman said. “Another 25 plays to help your team win in any way possible.”

For a fullback with two rushing attempts last season and five in his four-year NFL career, Sherman takes his action where he can get it. And he makes the most of it, said Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub.

“He is by far the best fullback and special-teams guy in the league, probably by far,” Toub said. “He sets the example for everybody, he sets the tempo on the practice field, in the meeting rooms and in the locker room. He’s just a great guy to have as a core guy.”

Linebacker Frank Zombo received a similar salute as a special-teams leader, and that distinction is no faint praise on a team that has ranked among the NFL’s best during Toub’s first two seasons in Kansas City.

In 2014, the Chiefs led the NFL with 12 punt returns of 20 or more yards and average starting field position (25.9) after kickoff. They were second in kickoff returns at 28 yards.

Kicker Cairo Santos set a team rookie record with 112 points. Punter Dustin Colquitt was fourth in the NFL in punts inside the 20. De’Anthony Thomas finished fourth in punt-return average and Knile Davis was third in kickoff-return average.

“Heart and effort,” Zombo said. “We have a group of guys who take it extremely seriously. They’re proud of what they do, and they buy into what Dave teaches.”

Most of the primary players are back, but some decisions await. The long snapper will be James Winchester, who played at Oklahoma and entered the NFL as a free agent with the Eagles in 2013, or Andrew East, an undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt.

“They’re really close,” Toub said. “I think both of them are NFL-caliber guys, there’s no question. Which is a good thing for us because we’re going to pick the best one. It’s going to take a while, I think we’re looking at at least two preseason games, I’m guessing, before we really know.”

 

Also, the Chiefs released running back Cyrus Gray, whose biggest impact came on special teams as Colquitt’s personal protector and lead blocker on kickoff returns. Toub said Charcandrick West, Albert Wilson, Spencer Ware and Darrin Reaves are in the mix at that position.

“I want to see somebody that plays fast and makes tackles,” Toub said. “Somebody that’s a playmaker, really.”

Toub singled out others he’s looking forward to seeing in game action, such as rookie Steven Nelson as a gunner.

“There’s a lot of competition out there, more than we’ve had in the last couple of years,” Toub said. “It’s going to be exciting, to say the least, with those down-the-line guys and how they perform on special teams. It’s going to be important in a lot of decisions.”

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.

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